Ice Storm

Wrapping her in crystal spires and tiers of lacy icicles, Mother Nature turned the Northeast into a spectacle of sparkling light last week.  And then, as it all subsided, the earth was drenched in ponding water and soggy fields, and trees were liberated from the rattle of the wind to the stillness of shaded gray trunks. There was no doubt about the truth: there  is power far greater than mine in the world, cycles of life that are far beyond the spectre of my control.

And so it is that in eality, each life is only one tiny fragment of a much greater whole.  My life, such as it is, such as it matters, is part of a far greater stream of lifetimes with goals and purposes, setbacks and suffering, losses and luck that I can hardly imagine.  There is comfort in that incredible collage of persons, in the knowledge that there is always more.  I bring something to the table, and so does every other individual. To begin to know, hear, and understand that reality is the summons to become more human.   As each progresses on that journey, there is the invitation to others to come further, to become more aware of the persons and the world around us.

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians opens that doorway to seeing individual lives as something of a greater mosaic:  many parts, one Body.  An image incomplete without even a single life.  Whole in spite of, even because of, loss and pain.  All linked together without a doubt.  It is paired with a Gospel reading that celebrates the reality of Jesus’ human life and His embrace of the mission ahead, his moving with the Spirit.  Whole, then, in dimensions of life that defy conventional understandings.

There rests the conundrum of faith: the clash of what is seen and believed, known and understood, with the reality of dimensions rarely acknowledged or explored.  It is not to say because they are unexplored that they do not exist.  Instead, Life itself provides so many moments to take that dare, that risk, to explore something so far beyond and so deeply embedded within self.  Like the ice storm that turned a raw winter world into a wonderland, faith transforms the rawness and randomness of human life into a reality glittering with meaning, purpose, and possibility.






Twenty inches tall, chubby and bald, he pursed full lips and narrowed his eyes.  “Boots off” he said with the full conviction of his two and. half years.  They were tiny firefighter boots, just like his Dad’s, the young mom explained.

She was perched on a Starbucks stool, a paper cup hot chocolate in one hand and leaning over the text.  Her ringlets were drawn back in a ponytail, and she read with remarkable intensity.  And then, she lifted the chapter book with incredulity.  “You will not believe this!”

Rich and defiant, her eyes were steady and calm.  Pride spilled onto the project; she was delighted with the outcome.  A shy smile appeared: she had conquered the obstacles and objections, the reservations and te criticisms.

Tiny snapshots of time, moments of grace for bystanders, openings granted to the attentive.  There is a sweetness, a tender humanity in each encounter.  Such moments are reminders of what is held in common, what matters in life.  Somehow, the movement is tender and invites more than the expected.

Moments often slip by unnoticed, unaddressed.  In a frenetically digital world, just seeing and looking, observation and attentiveness are  arts  unknown more than lost.  But the first glimpse invites a second and then a third, and then a fourth.

And so it is with what is sacred.  The first glimpses are just that, one tempting the next and so on.  And each requires being seen and known and recognized, and then there is the choice to be made: to look more deeply, to be more attentive, or to walk away with neither interest or concern.  To imagine that there are realities embedded in the digital experience is to discover that there is more to what is seen, more to what can be known and understood.

Somehow, this is the same journey through all the ages:  learning to know the more, to discover the moment, to begin at least to understand what is really there.  In a moment.  In this moment.







Baptism and Beginning

Baptism.  Symbolic.  Meaningful.  Purifying.  Challenging.  Grace-filled.  Impossible.  Beginning.  Ending.

Jesus at the Jordan, emerging from a crowd, recognized by John the Baptist, named by God.  Baptized as a beloeved Son of God. A story nestled in the Gospels; like all stories, images float together into a cohesive whole.  Like all stories, this one opens to so many layers of interpretations.  It is ensconced in history and nuance, captured by artists and authors, and somehow is still waiting to be known, examined and explored.

There is the element of water, dynamic yet simple, soft yet demanding, life-sustaining and yet luxurious.  Water embodies the very divergences within a human person:  it is at once powerful and gentle, tenative and confident, destructive and necessary.  It is a central factor, one that can be eclipsed only by the characters of cousins: John the Baptist and Jesus, the extremist and the moderate, the prophet and the king, the one who sees and proclaims, the other who proclaims and sees.

One facet of this story cannot exist or be understood without the others:  all three are essential.  That reality is revelatory:  this Baptism of Jesus is a recognition of his mission, his entering a wider stage, and it is all about involvement with the world around him.  In this story, Jesus is fully, intimately human. He is known as such, experiences the river and the water with a human body, interacts with his cousin in very human terms.  And so the adult journey becomes a conscious and powerful choice embedded in  a world that is home to contradictory choices, commands confusion at times, and creates chaos from coherence.  Like water, it both cleanses and re-shapes.  Fundamentally, the journey is about messages and responses, spending time with one another and recognizing the gifts of the earth and its peoples.

Above all, Baptism is the beginning of a greater journey.  It is not a laurel to be rested upon or the culminating achievement of a lifetime.  Instead, it is the idea that there is so much further to go, that there is a world beyond the river, a promise beyond the ritual, and even a new role and identity to be created and re-created.  The story of Jesus’baptism offers all that and more.

Far from an ending, Baptism is a beginning. That is, if the story can be told and heard and known, the beginning belongs to all of us.





Three Kings

There is a resplendence to the Epiphany, a beauty and dignity to the idea of kings trusting personal instincts, confidently pursuing a star, carrying gifts for a newborn.  There is a resonanace in their mistrust of Herod, in the choices that protected a child.  And there are questions, a plethora of questions.  It is story that celebrates light, recognizes darkness and confides the ambiguity that characterizes human lives.

There is a place for everyone in the Epiphany, a role to be explored and played.  There are the kings, their escorts,  Mary, the infant Jesus, Joseph….it is a narrative that opens up pathways for looking at self, thinking about gifts shared and received, wondering  what road to choose, how to respond to the stars we see, what to carry on the journey.

Entering into that journey to find meaning, purpose, and peace is the invitation of the Epiphany.  It is about being able to actually see the Star, and find the conviction to follow it.  It is about discovering companions for the impossible moments, and being a companion for others.  Above all, it is about trust, the kind of trust that is predicated on deeply held beliefs, that does not know fear, that opens up the soul to the real mysteries of life.

The Epiphany is not confined to a story, to one day a year.  It is the revelation that life is so very worth living, and risks are so very worth taking, and that somewhere, God is waiting.